Okay, you’re probably not literally shoving fistfuls of dollars into your mouth but how much do you spend on eating out every week? If you can afford to eat out every day and still save money for retirement, good for you, I’m jealous. But if you’re dining out at the expense of other goals, then you need to re-evaluate your situation.
When hubby and I were dating, we’d eat out 2-3 times a week. Hey, we were young and we didn’t know any better, lol. Seriously though, we were trying to get to know each other and eating out was the easiest option. The places we at ate averaged $15-$20 a plate so the bill usually ended up around $50 after taxes and tip.
After we had been together for awhile, we started ordering take out or I’d cook and we would stay in for movie night. The latter two options were considerably cheaper.
Now that we’re on our 7th year of togetherness, we see dining out as more of a treat than a right. And when do eat out, we try to use coupons or go to places that are more friendly on the wallet. Why the change of heart? Well, our priorities changed. During the dating phase, we were trying to impress each other.
Now, we’re focusing on financial independence so we’re willing to cut expenses. We decided that while eating out and not having to do the dishes is wonderful, we’re willing to cut back if it means we can retirement sooner. Or we’d rather spend that money on traveling.
And that’s the decision-making process you have to go through when determining how and where to spend your money. Let me make this clear, IT’S OKAY TO SPEND MONEY!!! But, unless you have unlimited funds, you have to decide how you use your money and be okay with the consequences.
If you eat out every day, don’t cry and complain when you don’t have any money to pay the rent. Similarly, don’t get mad when you can’t afford to go on that fab trip your friends have planned because you ate all your travel funds.
The point is, it’s okay to indulge and treat yourself but you have to have exert self-control and moderation. You have a set amount of money to work with each money and if it’s being spent on one category, the money necessarily has to come out of another category. It’s hard, I get it. It sucks that we can’t have every we want but guess what, it’s called being an adult. So, suck it up and take a hard look at what you want out of life, and examine whether your spending and goals match up.
TIPS FOR TRIMMING RESTAURANT EXPENSES
Reduce the Number of Times You Eat Out
You don’t have to deny yourself completely and it would be hard to do a 180 overnight. If you’re used to eating out every, think about cutting down to 3 times a week rather than going cold turkey. Not only will your wallet thank you, your waistline will as well.
Find the happy medium. You don’t have to go from social butterfly to a hermit. It’s okay to socialize with friends and if that means you meet up at a restaurant, so be it. You can utilize the next tip to ease the squeeze on your wallet.
Order Cheaper Items
If you have your heart set on dining out, you can order an appetizer instead of an entree. You can save at least 30% by doing this. Also, try sticking to plain tap water rather than having a fancy cocktail. Restaurants tend to have the biggest profit margin on drinks. That’s why servers rush to take your drink order the second your tush touches the chair.
Sometimes I feel guilty for not ordering the fancy drink or the special of the day that the server has painstakingly memorized and regurgitated. I remind myself that I’m not dining out to make the server happy, I’m there to make myself happy.
Another good option is to partake in is happy hour. I love happy hour! Drinks and food are often 50% off and hubby and I can fill up our bellies for under $20 total. We like to tip based on the original prices rather than the discounted price so the servers aren’t being shafted.
Use a Coupon
I recommend reading reviews of the restaurants if you’re going to buy a Groupon. Oftentimes, the restaurants that advertise on Groupon don’t have as good of reviews but we’ve found some diamonds in the rough. You just have to do your homework.
Also, local and independent restaurants tend to advertise in newspapers (yes, they still exist). We’ve received 2-for-1 coupons this way and have been able to try new restaurants we otherwise would not have known about.
Make Your Own Gourmet Meal
Last but not least, you can make your own restaurant-quality meal at home! Hubby and I have not eaten out for Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve in quite awhile The meals are way overpriced, there’s often a wait even when you have a reservation, and the service tends to suffer because the servers are so busy.
We don’t feel deprived since we still eat out. We just don’t go to restaurants on Hallmark holidays because prices are higher and the restaurants are so crowded.
For the last few years, we’ve celebrated special occasions by eating in. We can get crab legs on sale for $12.99/lb. I’ve also found ribs at the store for $8.99/lb when it’s buy 1 pack, get 2 packs free. We’ve also made lamb chops and filet mignon at home for far less than what you’d pay at a restaurant. You’re really only limited by your imagination.
For our special occasion meals, we decorate the table with candles and set the table with full place setting. It really helps to set the mood. Even if we splurge on wine or champagne, a homemade fancy meal for 2 can be had for $30 or less. That’s a far better deal than the $200 a meal that we’ve spent in the past.
As you can see, with some planning, you can enjoy eating out without breaking the bank.It’s okay to treat yourself but you just have to find the right balance so that you’re not ignoring your other financial needs.
Try implementing some of these tips to save on your restaurant bills. Do you have tips you’d like to share for saving on dining out?